Hortobágy National Park Directorate
Fishing the waters of the Hortobágy

Fishing the waters of the Hortobágy

 

Three rivers of the Hortobágy is considered to be important: the Hortobágy, the Árkus and the Kadarcs. As a fourth one, the Tisza can be mentioned even if it only touches the north-western corner of the Ohat puszta by a 1200-metre-long stretch. Besides these, several natural ponds and streams could be found in the area before the river regulation, which served as fishing places. Among these, the Herep, the Nagymorotva and the Völgyes should be mentioned as the most important ones in the outskirts of Ohat.

The river Hortobágy is the most important fishing-water that is fed by the outflows of the Tisza and wild-waters. The diploma from 1248 refers to its former importance mentioning the donated fishing-place by the road to Böszörmény crossing the river. In the Middle Ages, the upper and middle parts of the Hortobágy river belonged to the villages Máta and Balmaz, while the lower part belonged to Nádudvar. János Hunyadi was the first who gave Máta and Balmaz into the use of Debrecen, together with the fishery. Later Zsigmond Báthory, the prince of Transylvania confirmed the fishery rights of Debrecen on the river. The fishery of the city on the river prevailed from Papere to Sárosér.

The Árkus was also a good fishing-water in the 18th century. It drained the water of the Völgyes into the Hortobágy, and through the Szántásfoka it was in connection with the Tisza as well. The excavation of the linking trench for draining away the water and feeding the fish was ordained by the city of Debrecen at the beginning of the 18th century. According to the people of Csege, the Árkus was the water that the raftsmen of Máramaros used to transport salt and timber to Nádudvar when the Tisza was high.

The Kadarcs, meaning cranky, sullen water in folk-speech, divides the Hortobágy puszta from the estate of Elep. The people of Újváros used to fish this water; at the beginning of the 18th century they had a big fishing-box here.

A short stretch of the Tisza was annexed to the city of Debrecen together with the estate of Ohat. The river has always attracted the fishermen of Debrecen and was frequented in the hope of a good catch already in the 17th century. However, it was a dangerous sport even for those fishermen protected by the Turks. It happened in 1638 that János Törösdi and Ferenc Szentpéteri, or Callistus "while going to the village named Csege for fishing, were captured by the Turks of Eger, whence the senator Benedek Csontos could ransom them with great difficulties."

The three best ponds full of fish, the Herep, the Nagymorotva and the Völgyes have often been mentioned as donations since the Middle Ages. The Abbey of Ohat owned half of the Völgyes and the Nagymorotva, the other half was used by Csege. That is how it went to the ownership of Debrecen.

Among the several ponds and streams of the Hortobágy, the Papere, the Karácsonyfok, the Fényestó, the Bodajcs-ere, the Sebesér and the Sárosér were mentioned as fishing-waters by the documents. Nevertheless, these waters were only interested in fishery in the watery years. The shepherds grazing nearby reckoned with these waters, and they often fished them with the kétköz (a kind of fishing net). From the toponyms such as Csukásfenek (Pikey-bottom), Compólapos (Tench-shallow), Halasfarka (Fish-tail), Halasrét (Fish-meadow), Csíkos-ér ("Loach-brook"), one can only infer that these could have been fishing-waters kept in mind only by shepherds.

The fish-stock of the waters on the Hortobágy puszta depended on the weather. While the Tisza rambled the land freely, it also provided the supply of fish. After the regulation the waters of good spawning-grounds, ponds and brooks dried up and the significance of fishing in the waters of the Hortobágy also declined.

In the Middle Ages, Debrecen had fishery rights only on the Tócó, where the sealed warrant of the magistrate ensured the inhabitants' fishing free one day a year. The fishing of outlying waters of the Hortobágy was prohibited, since they were utilized by leasing. However, at the beginning of the 18th century leasing was suspended for a while in hope of a bigger income. The city bought nets and employed conventional fishermen. The fish was sold in the fish-shops of the city. In spite of the tight control, the fishery did not prove to be profitable, and the expenditure was not returned. So, since the middle of the 18th century they have been attempting to utilize the waters by leasing again. But then the magistrates and the town-councillors who utilized it in sub-tenancy took the right of lease and they did not change this practice despite the inhibition by the town. Probably that was the reason why the city started to sell the leases of fishing places at auction sales from the beginning of the 19th century.

But no one cared for domestication of fishes; the main concern was to make profits. When the Tisza did not provide the fish-supply, the fish-stock gravely decreased. The profit of fishery was only 28 Forints in 1841. Because of the low profits, the council gave up its former practice and attached the lease-rights of fishing-places to the lease of the Inn of Máta (Nagyhortobágyi Csárda) in 1846. This measure has prevailed until 1945. Lately, the leaseholder of the inn has fished only the river Hortobágy by independent fishermen.

The municipal council repealed the contract in March 1945. Then it agreed with Károly Varga and Sándor Sipos from Debrecen that in favour of bettering the conditions of public catering "they are obliged to set all the fish up for sale in Debrecen in order to provide food for the population". The contract has not expired yet when the statutory rule 6700/1945 came out and the fishery rights of all the waters escheated to the state.

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